|Carnage at Turn 4 for the Mercedes duo|
Unless you've had your head buried under the sand you will be aware that both championship contenders didn't even negotiate a full lap before making contact with each other and plunging into the gravel trap. An attempted overtake from Lewis Hamilton on Nico Rosberg heading into the braking zone of Turn 4 ended in disaster for Mercedes.
|Nico's red rain light signifies he is harvesting mode|
Lewis smelt blood and decisively went for the gap on the inside of the circuit. As Nico began to close the door Lewis' front wing was alongside. However, Nico continued to close the door forcing Lewis onto the grass leading him to lose control and make race-ending contact for the both of them as he rejoined the circuit.
|Lewis squeezed onto the grass|
Who Was At Fault?
Team boss Toto Wolff stated the blame was equal and immediate driver/team meetings took place after the incident. It was clear from the post-race interviews of Lewis and Nico that their hand's were tied around their back - the official line was to accept the stewards decision of a "racing incident". However social media was ablaze with debate, often negated by whether you were team Lewis or Nico previously. Through this emotional storm you need to navigate your way to a logical answer. This all depends on your 'racing philosophy' of course...
Mercedes bigwig Niki Lauda was first to throw his hat into the ring, labelling Lewis' actions as "Stupid".
“It’s very simple for me. It was a miscalculation in Lewis’s head. I blame him more than Nico. For the team and for Mercedes it is unacceptable. Lewis was too aggressive to pass him and why should Nico give him room? He was in the lead. It is completely unnecessary and for me the disaster is that all Mercedes are out after two corners.” - Niki Lauda
Its obvious that Niki wouldn't be happy with the result, but after inviting Mercedes chairman Dieter Zetsche to the race only to witness the ultimate sin being committed this would be doubly sour. He clearly thinks Lewis' aggressive move put to much unwanted risk at the table and cost the team a potential 1-2 result. Triple World Champion Jackie Stewart was equally unimpressed by Lewis' decisive overtake attempt.
|Scotsman Jackie Stewart was critical of Lewis|
These are quite hard words from Jackie, a man who has cut his teeth in the corporate world and understands the value of team work and the ultimate result for Mercedes. His quoted great drivers of Fangio, Moss and Clark certainly are legends of the sport. More recent names amongst such greats would certainly include the late Ayrton Senna, a hero of Lewis Hamilton. Back in 1992 Jackie Stewart was also very critical of Ayrton's driving, famously putting it to the Brazilian that he is often involved in on track incidents more so than any other World Champion. His response is now etched in history and to some ring true now -"if you no longer go for a gap you are no longer a racing driver".
The outspoken son of F1 ace Giles Villeneuve and World Champion in his own right, Jaques Villeneuve sat on the opposite side of the argument. Labelling Nico's defence as "killer" the Canadian felt "..he moved when Lewis had already made his move. You don’t do that, it’s why there is a rule in place. It’s the most dangerous thing you can do in racing - and the unfairest."
Interestingly Jacques also pointed out that "you never saw it in the ‘80s because they’d kill each other". In this age he feels that drivers don't seem to respecting dangerous moves with much improved safety levels giving a false sense of security.
|'97 Champ Jacques Villeneuve weighed into the argument|
Perhaps you are in the mind frame that a potential 1-2 result should have made Lewis more conservative in his approach, or that his move was too risky on his team mate and race leader? You might have made your own mind up nor care for mine, but my verdict ultimately lays blame at Nico's door. His mistake gave Lewis the opportunity that he was entitled to take. Whether it be calculated or a knee jerk rection, Rosberg closed the door aggressively and late. I don't feel Lewis should be conservative and hold off from making such a decisive move. He is fighting for a chance in the championship. We know to well the performance of both drivers is close and track position is vitally important especially around Catalunya. As Senna said "if you no longer go for a gap...".